Tales Of Wisdom - The Science Of Signs


The spoken word we understand if we know the language. The silent gestures we understand if we know the mind of the person making the gestures. In olden days the art of making signs and communicating ideas was considered a special science and some pundits used to make a special study of it. It was called Mudra Sastra.

Once a learned king ruled over a kingdom. He encouraged all arts. So, many poets, musicians, artists, pundits adorned his royal court, and the king became very famous because of the learned discourses and discussions that were frequently held in his court.

In a neighbouring country there lived a pundit who specialised in Mudra Sastra. He was a great pundit in that science. Holding discussions with several others who studied it, he defeated them all. Every one was afraid to face him in argument because no one could win.

One day, the Mudra pundit sent word to the king that he would go over to his court on a certain day to hold arguments on Mudra Sastra with the pundits of the royal court. If they succeeded he would surrender all his titles to them and leave. Otherwise the king and his pundits should acknowledge him as the greatest pundit.

Now in the king's court pundits in all branches of literature were available, but there was not a single pundit in Mudra Sastra. What to do? He did not want to acknowledge defeat because the royal court had won great reputation before, and the king did not want to lose it. So he held a conference of all the pundits in his court to think a way out of the dilemma. Everyone was worried and no one knew what to do. At last one shrewd pundit suggested, "Rajan, try as we may, we cannot face the Mudra pundit in argument and win it. So let us try to defeat him by a trick. We will dress up one shrewd man in our kingdom as a pundit and invite the Mudra pundit to hold discussions with him. Who knows, by his shrewdness our man may win the argument. We don't stand to lose anything, even if he is defeated."

Everyone approved of the suggestion, and the king also agreed to take the chance. An old shrewd shepherd was selected for the purpose. He was finely dressed up as a pundit. His tall, erect figure lent much to his dignity.

When the Mudra pundit reached the court he was received with due honours and was introduced to the make-believe pundit. The king said, "0 wise man, please have your discussions with our pundit. We are willing to abide by your conditions. If you win, we will acclaim you as the best; if he wins you will have to surrender all your titles to him."

The two pundits sat face to face and commenced the discussions. The king and others were eagerly looking on.

The Mudra pundit lifted up his hand and showed one finger. The shepherd was a one eyed man. He stared hard with his one eye for some time, and slowly lifted up .his hand and showed two fingers.

There was an appreciative smile on the face of the Mudra pundit. He then lifted up his hand once again and showed three fingers. The shepherd did not hesitate this time. He closed all his fingers and showed his first.

The Mudra pundit immediately rose and fell at the feet of the shepherd in great respect. Then he surrendered his titles to him, loudly acclaiming the old pundit's wisdom and scholarship. He took leave of the king and left the court. The whole court was astounded. They could not follow anything at all. The real pundits of the court followed the Mudra pundit when he was leaving, and asked him out of curiosity: "Sir, may we know what the discussions were? We could not follow because we do not know the science. So, please explain."

The Mudra pundit was still in ecstasies. He again praised the great wisdom of the royal pundit and said. "Ah, what a pundit! I never before saw such an expert in the science, nor such a philosopher."

"First of all, I showed one finger to say that God is one. Your pundit replied with his two fingers, indicating that there are two... Jeevatma and Paramatma. I then said with my three fingers, that Jeevatma, Paramatma and Ishwar are three."

"The wise pundit of the court closed all his fingers and showed his fist, pointing out thus that all the three are really one."

"Ah, great indeed, is his wisdom!"

The pundits reveled in this. Taking leave of the Mudra pundit they returned to the court and related to the king what they heard. They wanted to know what the shepherd understood of the discussions. The shepherd was much pleased with his performance, for he not only upheld the reputation of the court but also was richly rewarded by the king. So, when he was asked what discussions he had with the Mudra pundit, he replied in high spirits.

“My dear sirs, your Mudra pundit was very rude and insulting. But he was a coward really."

"First he lifted up one finger, mocking me that I had only one eye. I crisply retorted with two fingers that my one eye was much better than his two eyes."

"But he didn't stop with this. He again insulted me, showing three fingers to point out that together ours were three eyes. I really got angry with his rudeness and showed him my fist, indicating that I would break his nose if he further insulted me.

"Then the coward was afraid and fell at my feet."

The king and his pundits had a sidesplitting laughter over this and they acclaimed that they were very fortunate in getting such a person for the discussions.

Moral Of The Tale:

The actions of the men of realisation, the words of the sages are all "Mudras"—but man in his weakness understands them differently. Yet by grace of the Lord all end in joy!!




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